When you grow up as a Greek-Cypriot Londoner there are three things above all else that matter in life – food, family and community, though the order of priority is up to the individual! The first two are built right there into my DNA, but I’ve always had a broader perspective on ‘community’, extending the boundaries of this group to include those in my postcode community, work community and client community as well. It turns out that this is precisely the attitude I needed to be good at what I do for work.
I didn’t always dream of being an estate agent, shocker I know! I’d grown up in south London determined to have a bright future in the tech sector. I’d studied systems analysis at a college in Clapham South and was set to take the IT sector by storm when I graduated. But, I needed to find a job to tide me by, so I accepted an interview at a local estate agency in Tulse Hill – low basic salary, no commission and I had to use my own car, but it would do for a little pocket money…
In case you’re not lucky enough to have visited my hometown, Patras is a beautiful seaside city in western Greece. We’ve got our own castle overlooking the Gulf of Patras, a busy university, which is why the place is always so lively and because it’s traditional (yes I’m sticking to that reason) we love to eat ice cream all year round. Seriously, it’s a weird city-wide tradition, not just in my home. I also blame my obsession with coffee on the silly number of cafes and coffee shops we have on every street and this could also explain my non-stop high energy levels.
I spent a year learning the ropes from end to end of the property sector, all the while studying for my ARLA qualifications, because I never go into anything half-heartedly. But I had bigger plans, so in 2000, when I’d qualified, I accepted an interview at the Canary Wharf office of a far larger multi branch agency. I stayed for the next 14-years, working my way through the ranks until I became branch manager. By this point my life was very different, I had a young family of my own, so when it came time for me to move on and I found GHE they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, one that would allow me to fit my work life around my home life, an arrangement that has worked well for everyone to this day.
Today I have two roles, I’m GHE’s business development manager and I’m director of European operations. This all sounds quite grand, and at times it can be, but GHE runs on a very flat hierarchical structure, so I also spend plenty of time working with landlords to find them the very best tenants.
However, there are times when even the most straightforward of tasks can turn out to be a hell of a challenge.
I was recommended to a lady and her brother – she lives here in the UK and her brother lives in Hong Kong, where we’ve also got an office. They both owned apartments here in London in E3, lovely modern blocks, 2-beds, open plan living, secure parking, concierge service and picturesque canal views. All sounds idyllic doesn’t it. But there was a problem, quite a significant one actually. You see they had trusted the wrong agents, who had, completely without permission, converted both of their two-bedroom apartments into three-beds which they let out by the room. The tenants had been paying the agent, but the agent hadn’t paid the landlords a penny for around 6-months. It was a mess on so many levels.
As you can imagine the lady and her brother were very anxious about moving to a new agent, they’d been stung once so they were expecting to be stung again, which meant I just had to work even harder than usual to earn their trust. To make matters worse, this story took place in the middle of the 2020 lockdown period with all the full-on pandemic challenges to deal with as well.
Our first job was to sit down with the tenants to negotiate and organise an exit strategy for them all. Then once they were all out we got our builders in and stripped out all the illegal changes the former agents had made to the property to bring them back to the lovely 2-bed apartments they had once been. We found great new tenants, who I’m proud to report have been in for almost a year and their renewal dates are due any week now.
The landlords were so happy that they’ve already recommended us to friends and we have just taken on a stunning Victorian conversion as a result of this. And that’s what makes this job so worthwhile, when you can make a positive change in someone else’s life, right a wrong, and have an opportunity to do it all again for someone they know.
I don’t just work in south London, I live there too, have done all my life. I love it for its wide leafy streets, its character and its community. We moved to Crystal Palace a while back, just down the road from the local cricket club and tennis courts, and the massive park is even closer. My boys love to get stuck into helping out with community activities – we go litter picking and flower planting, getting involved with anything and everything to make a contribution – we take pride in our area, but we’re just a family among many around here who do. Combine that with lovely neighbours and just a short train ride into central London for work and why would we ever want to live anywhere else?